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The significance of friendship in UK single mothers’ intimate lives

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This article explores friendship as an aspect of the intimate lives of heterosexual single mothers. It has been argued that friendship holds an increasing significance in intimate lives, against a backdrop of increasing choice and declining emphasis on kinship ties. In this context, friendship has been viewed as displacing the centrality of heteronormative romantic relationships and, in this research, friendships were often accorded a higher status. In this narrative study, participants related shifts in their personal landscapes of intimacy on becoming single mothers. Friendships were narrated as multifaceted, offering practical and emotional support, alongside acceptance. Foregrounding friendship provided possibilities for positive identifications in a context in which single mothers are often subject to judgements. While friendships were not usually described as an alternative to couple-centred family life – which retained its status as the ideal intimate form – for some, single motherhood entailed an opening out of intimate possibilities beyond the couple.
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Keywords: friendship ; heteronormativity ; individualisation ; intimacy ; lone parents; narrative; relationships ; single mothers

Affiliations: University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

Appeared or available online: May 22, 2018

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